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Vista Annoyances - The GUI
Monday, Aug. 6, 2007

(The following applies to Vista Enterprise Edition. Details may be different for other versions)

I've been using Vista for a few days now (see Ref. 1), just long enough to notice that several things are different from the way they are in XP. Some things are better, others are worse, and still others I am not sure about.

In this article I will list the annoyances that I noted in the Graphical User Interface (the GUI), and in a few cases the workarounds that may help anyone else making the transition from XP to Vista. Since I am sure to keep running across more during the next few weeks, I hope to edit and update this page every so often. There are some improvements as well, and they will be listed in a separate future article.

Windows Explorer has undergone some major changes, and those are important enough to deserve their own separate article as well, coming up in the near future.

Vista Desktop

The basic desktop (Fig. 1) is not too different from XP. The main changes of note are the "Windows Button" in the lower-left corner which has replaced the "Start" button, and the "Gadget Bar" at the top-right which shows the clock and news headlines by default.

Click to enlarge

Figure 1 - Vista Desktop - Click on figure to enlarge.

Overall, the color scheme is more pale blues and yellows, with better use of shading and 3D effects. It is a more "MAC like" look and feel, and probably an improvement.

Fig 2 - Vista icons

Figure 2 - Vista Desktop Icons.

The icons seem a bit larger and more three dimensional (Fig. 2). While an improvement overall, I am not too sure about the way folder icons are displayed. Instead of the standard yellow box, it now looks like a half-open folder with the contents partially visible. While the effect is cool looking, it makes it harder to run your eyes across the screen and separate the folders from other items. In the example above, the "Apps" folder has the red color of Adobe Acrobat showing, and the "Net" folder has the green of ActiveSync visible. I was very used to scanning icons and quickly separating out the folders based on the solid yellow color, it is more difficult with multi-colored icons.

Prettier, but less useful?

There are a few changes in the UI that might be considered prettier looking, but less useful than their XP counterpart.

One good illustration of this is the progress bar that is shown when you copy or move a folder containing many files from one place to another. In Windows XP, the progress bar looks something like Fig. 3 below.

Fig 3 - XP File Transfer Progress

Figure 3 - XP File Transfer Progress.

The corresponding progress bar in Vista certainly looks prettier (Fig. 4 below).

Fig 4 - Vista File Transfer Progress

Figure 4 - Vista File Transfer Progress.

But on closer inspection there is something missing - the names of the files being transferred. This is the item circled in red in Fig. 3 above, and it was only when I noticed it missing in Vista did I realize that this was very important feedback to confirm that the correct files/folders are getting transferred, and you did not drag the wrong folder over by mistake.

The Vista progress dialog does have a button labeled "More Information" and while this seems promising, clicking it yields very little new information (Fig. 5 below).

Fig 5 - Vista File Transfer - More Information

Figure 5 - Vista File Transfer - More Information.

The only information it adds is the transfer speed in bytes/sec, not nearly as useful as knowing the file name(s) :(

There is one improvemnt in this dialog. In XP, you could move the dialog around the desktop, but could not minimize it (note the lack of a minimize button in Fig. 3). I considered this an annoyance in XP, and this has been remedied in Vista. You can now click on the minimize button (see Fig. 5) in Vista, and hide this dialog when so desired - a handy option during long file transfers.

Fading in, Fading out

A small but regular nuiscance was introduced in Windows 2000, continued in Windows XP, and became worse in Vista. I refer to the "Fade Effect" when menus and windows pop-up on the screen. Windows used to appear near-instantly when you right-click on something, or when a new windows was opened, but now the default is to use the "fade" effect to waste a fraction of a second each time. While this is a small time for any one window, I find it very annoying because it happens several hundred times each day.

In 2000 and XP, it was easy to disable this effect, you right-clicked on the desktop, selected "Properties", then "Appearence" -> "Effects", and un-checked the box to "Show transition effects for menus and tooltips" - no more fade effects.

If you try the comparable thing in Vista (right-click on Desktop -> Personlaize -> Window Color and Appearance -> Effects), it leads to a dead-end. Surprisingly and annoyingly, the option to disable the fade-effect is gone (Fig. 6).

Fig 6 - Where is the option to turn off fade effects?

Figure 6 - Where is the option to turn off fade effects?.

Being unable to turn off the fade effects after trying for a few minutes, I put up with them for a couple of weeks, then made another effort and found the solution, which is as follows:

Start Button (lower-left corner of desktop) -> Control Panel -> System -> Advanced System Settings -> click "Continue" to give permission -> Performance/Settings -> un-check the box labeled "Fade or Slide menus into view" (see Fig. 7), click OK etc. and suddenly the time-wasting fade-effects are gone.

Fig 7 - Good bye, Fade Effects

Figure 7 - Good bye - Fade Effects.

This illustrates just one of many ways in which things are "hidden" in Vista. I can think of no reason to move the Fade effects out of the "Desktop -> Personalize" section, other than careless design.

[...To be continued...]

References

  1. Installing Vista: bb20070802_01.asp
  2. Windows Vista Product Page: http://www.microsoft.com/windows/products/windowsvista/default.mspx

Comments
(in order from older to newest)

"If those are the only minor annoyances you have to complain about, I envy you... I could go on for days, but one big change for the worse is the windows explorer.

It used to be very easy to discern file folder structure and hierarchy and so on. It was uncluttered and yet presented most the information one might generally need, etc. It did it's job simply and plainly.

Not any more...

Even configured to look as much like the Windows Classic WE as possible, it is still cluttered, busy, full of "features" that get in the way, the combination of the new goofier larger "small" icons and the decreased indenting make it nearly impossible at times to discern folder structure, at times it jumps around wildly (you select one folder, try an operation that fails, it collapses the folder and disc you selected and takes you back to something you selected several operations ago), it gives you way too much information in some cases and refuses to allow you to see other information in other cases, on and on and on. And that's just one minor applet.

And what's up with the goofy buttons/bars/whatever in the path textbox when I've explicitly told it I want it to display the paths there???? A)(_@!#)(*@!#(*&)&*(&*(

I used to be able to tell it to display the paths and, being a simple textbox, I can edit/select/cut/copy/paste to my hearts' desire.

Not any more... Even when I tell it to display the path, it instead displays those 8)(*)(#@$(@#$@# active buttons. You can't just click and edit, because if you do and you click indiscriminately, it'll ASSUME you actually want to change folders and it'll ASSUME you've asked it to do that, and it'll do precisely that whether you intended to or not.

And even if you click whitespace in the textbox to switch it to a pure text display, at times it'll switch back to the **&_()@#!_)@# active buttons anyway, apparently for no good reason other than some moronic GUI programmer assumes they know better what you want to do than you do, and it again with react to the active button you didn't want and do something (change folders and update itself) that you neither wanted it to do NOR asked it to do.

And all for what!!?!?!?!?! For having had the audacity to actually try to use your own computer the way you want!?!?!?!?!

I was elected to spearhead our orgs' "move development boxes to Vista so we can get fully into working on and developing for Vista" effort. I feel as though I've been thrown to a den of wolves and Vista has been a HUUUGGGGEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE productivity hit.

And don't even get me started on "...the most powerful, productive, stable platform ever..." What utter nonsensical tripe!!!! Vista is crankier, less powerful, less stable, less useful, more constraining, more cluttered, and less productive than any platform I've EVVERRRRRR used, except for an early 90's port of Unix to PC's that one was just plain buggier than crap... "

Aug. 17, 2007, 12:53 PM by LD

Don't hold back, please tell us how you really feel :)
Seriously, though, I have also noticed many annoyances in the new Windows Explorer, and will try to compile them in a separate blog entry, coming up shortly.

Aug. 18, 2007, 12:53 AM by rk.

"Have you tried to re-arrange your start menu and group programs into categories?

The nicely organized ALL USERS from XP is *GONE*.. Now its hidden and SYSTEM protected.

Windows Vista = Windows ME = Not gone soon enough. Unfortunately that will leave us with a more entrenched and even less usable Windows-7"

Apr. 9, 2009, 1:40 PM by DG

"not a whole lot of difference in win7 from vista. so far XP is the best of the 3 by FAR. btw, thanks for that tip the fade thing was getting on my last good nerve & i only have two good ones left!"

Mar. 12, 2010, 7:39 AM by Coach

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